Sayonara Wild Hearts Scratches My Ever-Present Rhythm Heaven Itch

Sayonara Wild Hearts Scratches My Ever-Present Rhythm Heaven Itch

At PAX West 2019, we played Simogo's latest colorful adventure.

When I reviewed mobile games during the platform's heyday, Simogo's titles stood out in the endless, winding parade of apps that entered and exited my iPhone. I was charmed by their earliest titles Kosmo Spin and Bumpy Road, then found myself fascinated a few years later by the one-of-a-kind puzzle-adventure game Device 6.

Mobile's indie gaming scene slowed down after Apple's updates to its iOS started causing developers expensive problems, and some great studios were caught in the suction. Simogo, however, is going wild on the Nintendo Switch. The Swedish developer is crafting motorbike gang war dance-offs for Sayonara Wild Hearts, an action-rhythm game that reminds me why I love titles like Nintendo's Rhythm Heaven series.

Simogo's main site for Sayonara Wild Hearts describes the experience as "an euphoric music video dream about being awesome, riding motorcycles, skateboarding, dance battling, shooting lasers, wielding swords, and breaking hearts at 200 mph." Having gone hands-on with the demo at PAX West, I can confidently say Sayonara Wild Hearts serves up what's printed on the label.

In my demo, a woman who recently had her heart broken follows a butterfly that flits into her room. (Always a great idea.) She promptly finds herself recruited on a psychedelic mission to restore order to the universe by chasing down members of biker gangs and literally punching their hearts into pieces. And that is the way to deal with a messy breakup when you're too lactose intolerant to handle an ice cream binge.

Though Sayonara Wild Hearts' demo reminds me of the Rhythm Heaven series, the two have nothing in common at a glance. Rhythm Heaven's action is broken up into a series of single-screen missions and stages, whereas Sayonara Wild Hearts' surreal roads and wilderness zip by at dizzying speeds. Rhythm Heaven uses bright, well-defined character sprites that are sparsely animated; Sayonara Wild Hearts' character models glide at 60 fps.

I talked about Sayonara Wild Hearts' inspirations with Jeff Legaspi of Annapurna Interactive's publishing team. Legaspi says Rhythm Heaven isn't really part of Sayonara Wild Hearts' creative equation, as the former is very structured and the latter never stops moving, flowing, and dancing. "[Simogo] wanted to do something that's music-inspired, but not necessarily rhythm or beat matching like in other music-related games," he says. "[Simogo] wants the music to drive the game, and then vice-versa."

Nevertheless, Sayonara Wild Hearts still reminds me of Rhythm Heaven, but in the best way possible. Both use custom music and action prompts to push along narratives that are bizarre and irresistible. Even Sayonara Wild Hearts' wordless tutorial serves a story purpose, as it's the bridge that transforms you from a sad mortal to the dashing and mysterious bike-riding hero whose costume echoes The Fool arcana found in tarot.

Sayonara Wild Hearts has a whole lot of style. | Simogo/Annapurna Interactive

The constant movement in Sayonara Wild Hearts resembles an endless runner, albeit one that refuses to keep you on a straight path. You weave around objects while collecting lines of hearts that multiply your score while simultaneously showing you which paths are safe to drive on. When action prompts pop up on the screen, it's an invitation to keep up the flow and remain part of this great, musical serpent that never stops winding, leaping, and striking.

Sayonara Wild Hearts is one of those games that you don't "get into" so much as you surrender your senses to it. Again, if you're a fan of Rhythm Heaven, you should already be familiar with the euphoric sensation of letting rhythm and music plant itself in your brain and commandeer all your senses. It's one of the best feelings in the world, and you can experience it again when Sayonara Wild Hearts comes to the Nintendo Switch later this year.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Nadia Oxford

Staff Writer

Nadia has been writing about games for so long, only the wind and the rain (or the digital facsimiles thereof) remember her true name. She's written for Nerve,, Gamepro, IGN, 1UP, PlayStation Official Magazine, and other sites and magazines that sling words about video games. She co-hosts the Axe of the Blood God podcast, where she mostly screams about Dragon Quest.

Related articles

Mat's Farewell | The Truth Has Not Vanished Into Darkness

This isn't the real ending, is it? Can't be.

USG Game of the Year 2020: Hades Isn't Just About Escaping Home, But Rebuilding It

This Greek myth feels like the culmination of everything Supergiant Games has created thus far.

The Top Stories That Shaped Video Games in 2020

There's a lot—good, bad, and everything in between—to look back on this year. I don't know about you, but I'm mostly feeling tired.

Control: Ultimate Edition Confirms PS5 and Xbox Series S/X Dates and Ray Tracing Toggle

If you were hoping for the highest of high-end performance… dream on, Faden.

Need help?

Apex Legends Vaults - Where to Find the Vaults and How to Open Them

Need to know how to find a Vault Key in Apex Legends to open one of the three vaults? We've got you covered.

Gears 5 Collectibles - How to Find All Collectible Locations

Here's our guide to the Gears 5 collectible locations, including Act 1, Act 2, Act 3, and Act 4 collectibles.

Devil May Cry 5 Devil Breakers - Devil Breaker Arm Abilities in Devil May Cry 5

Here's our complete breakdown of every Devil Breaker arm ability for Nero in Devil May Cry 5.

Sekiro Tips - How to Beat Every Boss and Survive in Sekiro Shadows Die Twice

This is our complete beginner's guide to surviving Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, including a list of essential tips and tricks.